09/30/2015 05:34 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2016

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

Back in the 90's, I found myself thinking a lot about cowboys -- the ones that rode on gallant white horses, had silver guns on either side of their thighs, clicked their spurs, and were more than happy to share their saddle with you as the two of you rode off into the sunset.

OK, so I was quite the romantic dreamer in those days, but I had to be. I had two failed marriages under my belt, and I was yet again thinking about how to flee the man I was currently living with. What was wrong with these men? Why had they failed me? Why were they always wrong for me?

In all fairness, it was singer, Paula Cole who got me thinking this way -- she had just released that great song: Where have all the Cowboys Gone, and boy did that song touch a nerve in me and speak my truth about the men in my life. Men who were weak, men who disappointed me, men who lost interest in me, men who didn't get me, men who...these were the stories I told myself. It was all about them and how they failed me.

Where was my John Wayne? Where was my happy ending? Where have all the cowboys gone? Did they ever exist?

It took me a while to catch onto what was actually going on in my life -- me and my long history of failed relationships -- but I did eventually catch on. And boy was it a BIG thing to catch on to. Because for every single one of those wonderful men who was not a match to what I thought was my ideal, I found myself becoming razor clear about what I did want in a relationship. Those guys were my greatest teachers.

Sure it was painful when my partners disappointed me, cheated on me, and let me down, but there's no denying -- going through those rings of fire had a decidedly purifying and clarifying effect. Or as my mentor, Martha Beck writes in her book: Steering by Starlight:

When something "terrible" is happening to us, something wonderful is being born."

So, if you're caught up in your stories of how it could be, or of how it should be--begin to appreciate those experiences as valuable data and nuggets of truth that are steering you to what you really want in a relationship.

When you know what you don't want, you know what you do want.

It was only when I got picky and precise about what I truly wanted in a relationship that cowboys began to show up in my life. And sure enough, I ended up marrying a cowboy--not a true prairie cowboy from Montana -- but a British lone ranger type who gallantly made room on his saddle for me.